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Should applicants lengthen their college lists?

What do Columbia and Penn State have in common? That’s easy; they’re both Lions! But followers of this blog know there’s got to be more. Recently, both Columbia and Penn State have joined the cohort of test-optional colleges, and the counselor networks are buzzing. Let’s find out more.

Standardized Testing: Are You Down with It? What other colleges have scrapped the test? In addition to the Lions mentioned above, the list includes U Miami, Dartmouth, UVA (which also changed the ED I deadline to November 1), Penn, Cal Tech. Rutgers, RCNJ and Hopkins. And as I write this blog, I see that the mighty Carnegie Mellon has gone test-optional as well. Who would’ve thought . . .

“Please note that we are aware that many students, if able to test, could only take a test once. As noted above, that context will be taken into consideration should scores be provided. Standardized testing is only one component in a highly contextualized, multi-layered holistic review.”  –Columbia Admissions

Meanwhile, College Board has said no to the possibility of an at-home SAT. Slammed by publicity during the recent AP exams, it’s leaving online testing to rival ACT. As stated in The Wall Street Journal, “The announcement and request for leniency from schools comes as questions about the value of standardized test scores continue to swirl among admissions officers.” The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), an organization to which this college counselor belongs, backed College Board’s decision to not pursue an at-home test while calling out the ACT: “We reiterate our call to ACT to reconsider its plans for online, at-home testing in light of reasonable concerns about inequitable access to technology, and ask its leadership to similarly reflect on the role standardized testing plays in ongoing equity concerns.” Implications for Admissions: If colleges known to rely on numbers no longer have an SAT or ACT, they’ll need to look deeper. The U, for example, has already announced that it will add a supplemental essay for 2020-21 that will “focus on resilience.”

“. . .  standardized testing has always been only one part of a larger review process that considers many factors, including the rigor of coursework and performance in these courses. Penn Admissions will continue to review students, on an individual basis, consistent with our belief in a comprehensive whole-person review process.” Penn Admissions Brown’s Back on Track

Recently, alma mater Brown announced that it was streamlining varsity sports, sparking an outcry from the community. In a letter to alums, President Christina Paxson announced that Brown had reversed its decision to downgrade 11 varsity sports to club status, reinstating men’s track, field and cross country. Good call for the Bruins. Wait-Listed Students Reap the Rewards Yes, 2020 has been a big downer for many students, but those on waitlists are somewhat of an exception. Last week, Bloomberg published “Getting Into College Just Got Easier, If Your Kid is Wait-listed,” explaining that “faced with the prospect of bulging deficits, tuition shortfalls and uncertainty as to how many students will enroll this fall, U.S. colleges and universities are tapping into their bench of prospective students to ensure their classes, and ideally classrooms and dorms, are full.” We in the counseling community see the movement as well. Students have been taken off lists earlier than usual, including those on WLs of elite colleges. The article tells us that Carnegie Mellon has already filled 100 spots using its waitlist. An official from Dartmouth expects that a decline in International students may result in colleges looking again at the lists in late June. Where’s the Payoff? Parents Want to Know! New research suggests that choosing the right program can matter more than the reputation of the school.” That is the conclusion of Georgetown’s Center for Education and the Workforce as explained in The Wall Street Journal, CEW analyzed and related thousands of programs and salaries. It found that career-oriented majors pay more in the short-term and holders of certificates or associate’s degrees may earn more as well. (It excluded graduation rates, which are higher at elite colleges.) Regarding NJ colleges, here are some additional facts I picked up from the article:

  1. In Civil Engineering, Stevens grads earned $14,500 more than the mean, higher than those from Cornell.

  2. Monmouth University English majors earn slightly more than Columbia English grads.

  3. Applying to a college just to do it – especially adding elite colleges having acceptance rates under 10 percent – can be an exercise in frustration.

  4. It’s understandable to add colleges that are closer to home for financial or family reasons.

  5. If a family can afford the fees, there’s no harm in trying. But is the student primed for the extra essays?

The best piece of advice in the article: “Make senior year relevant.” That means students should challenge themselves in a way that will passes the scrutiny of admissions people who are looking beyond grades and test scores. In the article, Selingo notes, “If students feel they aren’t ready to move on to the next level of a subject because their spring was upended, they should use the summer to brush up with online courses.”

2020: The Summer of Online Love? Parents are asking what online programs their student should take. Tough choice. While some elite colleges have made their programs virtual, that doesn’t mean they’re affordable, or that space is still available. Here are some programs that are appealing:

  1. Stevens‘ online programs include Music Production, Virtual Reality and Game Design.

  2. Banson NYC is providing Virtual Fashion Summer Camps.

  3. The School of the NY Times still has space in Writing for Television, Reporting in NY and Fundamentals of Editing.

  4. Sotheby’s Institute of Art is offering Art History, Art Conservation and Art Appraisal.

Over the last few month, we’ve seen projected trends turn to realities, and college is front and center, with the acceleration of policy and curricular changes. I’m here to help share useful information, clear up uncertainty and, of course, differentiate your applicant.


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